Black Millennials on the Move: What will #ElectionDay Tell Us About this Powerful Audience?


November 07, 2017


Just about a month ago, we sat in enraptured awe watching the cast of the tv show Black-ish belt out a song titled “We Built This” in a stunning musical number on the show detailing the myriad ways America grew rich off of the enslavement of African peoples. It was poignant and funny and spot-on and hammered home the message we’ve been singing over here for nigh on a year — #WeBuiltThis. And we’re gonna keep on building until we get free.

The idea that Black millennials are disengaged and unenthusiastic has long been put to bed. No more do we have to read hand-wringing treatises on the apathy of young Black voting aged folks. Why? Because we’ve seen Black millennials take the reigns from the streets to the stage to the ballot box.

And the hard work has paid off. Randall Woodfin’s progressive victory to become the next mayor of Birmingham, AL is shining proof. So, too, is Chokwe Lumumba, Jr.’s historic win as mayor of Jackson, MS. Or Micheal Tubbs in Stockton, CA. On a larger stage, folks like Park Cannon, and Ilhan Omar are showing up and showing out at the state level.

In the wake of last year’s election, a lot has changed but one thing has remained the same — our community’s steadfast hope and determined dream for Black futures. In so many ways large and small, what we have witnessed growing in strength and number this year has been the localization of resistance.

It has been a rallying cry in the Movement for Black Lives and through the hard work and determination of hundreds of Black millennials and their allies in cities and states across the country we are seeing a determination that leads, among other places, to the statehouse; to City Hall; and to the ballot box on this Tuesday.

The results of the election a year ago felt reactionary and fractured. In a knee-jerk response to the historic presidency and legacy of Barack Obama, we saw white supremacist forces rise up, kicking and screaming at a world that didn’t seem to reflect them. That kickback was more forceful than many of us anticipated. We were caught off guard by its velocity. But in the days since, the resistance has grown in strength and number.

Just a few months ago violent white supremacists took to the streets of Charlottesville, VA spewing hate and spurning copycat actions across the country. And just three short weeks ago, we saw these same goons return to Charlottesville to double down on their hateful message. They were met with opposition from brave souls who were willing to put their bodies on the line. But our current president refused to condemn them. Instead saying “there were good people on both sides.”

We still have a long way to go but today is a new day. Local and state elections are important, particularly when it comes to building power to combat hate and violence. Down ballot candidates will always bring those at the top of the ticket across the finish line. Originally, the #WeBuiltThis campaign was rooted in the idea of using voting as a tool to combat state violence — and we still hold true to this message. But we’d also like to expand on that thought. Voting is also about building towards a future we can believe in. It’s about building community with each and for each other. The state is only one of many violent actors that threaten our lives and we are committed to building a resistance against all forms of terrorism that threaten our lives and livelihoods. Let’s get back to the business of building and employ the ballot as a way to proactively create preventative measures against this opposition in addition to constructing a world that is rooted in #BlackJoy and freedom.

This Election Day, let’s rejoice in our communal power. Bring that joy and optimism to the voting booth. Remember: We got this because #WeBuiltThis.

If you haven’t voted yet and you need to know where or how, check out these resources:

Aimee Castenell is Senior Digital Strategist at Fission Strategy and Creative Director of the voter engagement campaign #WeBuiltThis.